The Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association recently sat down with Sen. Mike Regan to learn more about his perspective on the liquor industry and the current political landscape. Sen. Regan is chair of the Senate Law & Justice Committee, which oversees the state’s liquor laws, and is a key committee for the tavern industry. He serves the 31st District including parts of York and Cumberland counties.
PLBTA: Thinking back to your first elected position, what motivated you to run for public office?
MR: I’ve spent my entire career working to protect our families and helping make our community better. For 23 years I was in the United States Marshals Service, served as the Task Force Commander and then as the U.S. Marshal for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, then I became a member of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. Now I am committed to being a strong leader in the Senate, and addressing the challenges and opportunities facing our families. I am passionate about protecting the taxpayers and our communities, and it’s something I have spent my life doing.
PLBTA: What made you particularly interested in chairing the Senate Law & Justice Committee?
MR: The Senate Law & Justice Committee has oversight over Pennsylvania’s liquor laws and there are aspects and issues that are important to me. My past service as a U.S. Marshal provides me with a unique insight into issues facing law enforcement, so I also look forward to exploring the oversight the committee has on the Pennsylvania State Police as well as municipal police issues.
PLBTA: Do you have an agenda for the Law & Justice Committee this legislative session? Are there issues that you see as needing addressed?
MR: I believe Pennsylvania has come a long way in modernizing our liquor laws as well as the LCB, but I believe there is still more work to be done. Consumer convenience is an important issue for me, and I think the committee will try to work to expand the current convenience and product choice.
PLBTA: Perhaps no other industry has suffered more or longer from Covid-19 mitigation orders than the small bars, taverns and restaurants who feel they have been unfairly targeted. All four caucuses said they want to help these mom and pop operations, but nothing was done last fall. Do you see the General Assembly and Governor working together to help save this industry early in 2021?
MR: I agree the industry has suffered greatly and small businesses were treated unfairly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. I do think that as a body, the legislature needs to come together to aid these struggling businesses who have been unfairly penalized this past year.
PLBTA: Do you see any of the Covid-19 changes (drinks to go, extended outdoor seating) being extended or becoming permanent options?
MR: There have been precedents set in states like Ohio, where drinks to go have become permanent. I think the issue will be further vetted and debated throughout this legislative session. I look forward to working with my colleagues in both the Senate and the House to bring consensus to these issues.
PLBTA: In recent years, you’ve taken the lead on legislation related to cannabis-infused drinks. Please tell us your interest in this category of alcohol.
MR: Unfortunately, on many issues Pennsylvania finds itself playing a game of catch-up and the goal here is to take a pre-emptive measure for/if recreational marijuana is legalized. Recreational marijuana has been legalized in states across the country and these drinks already exist. Similar pre-emptive measures were taken for sports betting to ensure PGCB oversight.
PLBTA: What can tavern owners do to help convince legislators to support them and get the changes they need from the PLCB and state government?
MR: I encourage tavern owners to call and meet with their legislators and inform them of the issues they are facing. As elected officials we want to hear from the people on the ground so we can better understand their needs and how to help them.
PLBTA: As you know, our Members are mostly Mom-and-Pop operations. When they look around their hometowns, they see that the local hardware store has closed, the independent doctor was bought out by a hospital chain, and the neighborhood grocery store is no more. They worry that their industry is next. Do you ever worry about the loss of small businesses in our communities?
MR: I have been a long-time supporter of Mom-and-Pop operations and small businesses. It’s always said that small business is the backbone of our economy, and I believe that is especially true for the neighborhood bar and restaurant that supports the local charities, little leagues and is always there to lend a hand. I think these local establishments are invaluable to the communities they serve – I plan to do what I can to make sure these multi-generational family businesses are on a level playing field.
The above Q&A appeared in the March 2021 edition of Pennsylvania Beverage Media, the official magazine of the Pennsylvania Licensed Beverage and Tavern Association. Members receive this monthly magazine as a benefit of membership.